DAICHI OHAMA: THE FLAVOR OF JAPAN
Soy Sauce Sommelier in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture
"Making soy sauce means keeping the soul of Japan."
Going for food with Daichi Ohama is an experience in itself. He usually brings his own
soy sauce into the restaurant. At least three different ones he always carries with him, because the soy sauce needs to fit to the fish they serve. The ones they offer, he can easily name after a quick tasting and consider if it might suit the food or not. Daichi is not necessarily a traditional craftsmen, but soy sauce producer, rather: he calls himself a "Soy Sauce Sommelier". It means, that he is able to taste and name around 2000 out of the 10250 different soy sauce from Japan. He runs Hukuman Soy Sauce, his own little factory, to produce and experiment with the taste of soy sauce and offers special tasting in his shop in Fukuoka in the south of Japan.
When you talk with Daichi about soy sauce he seems slightly angry: Vine, Miso, Sake and Soy Sauce have the same basic process of fermentation, but they are not equal in the culture. When you compare the gestures amongst them, then you will find huge differences which are not on the same level. Even though it is a basic of our food, there is no culture to eat it.
Are you talking about appreciation of soy sauce in Japan?
As well, yes. In almost every kitchen in Japan you will find only one soy sauce and its usually the same one from the brand Kikomanen.
Why is that so?
First of all, usually everybody takes what Mum had at home, so what they know. And second, Kikomanen is cheap and you can get it everywhere. So there is no need of change.
How do you decide which soy sauce, you should take?
There is no bad soy sauce in the world. It depends on the food, weather the choice of the
soy sauce fits together or not. Its actually not important if you like the sauce, the food has
to like it.
That means, I always have to know which soy sauce is the right one for the food, otherwise I’m
not truly able to enjoy it, is that so?
Yes. It is about the flavor of the food, which needs to be combined with the right flavor of the soy sauce. In soy sauce the aroma is the most important. The basic idea of soy sauce is
to masking the smell of the fish to enhance its own aroma. When you add soy sauce to the fish, it can lift up the taste, as long as you have the right one.
"The right one" means to balance the fad level of the fish with the salt- and sweetness of the soy sauce. For Japan this means the more south you go, the more fad level of the fish increase, so the more stronger, thicker and sweeter the soy sauce needs to be to cover the smell of the fish.
The power of soy sauce lies in its flavors.
Probably the most surprising and astonishing fact about soy sauce lies in its flavors. When you taste a soy sauce, you will find over 300 different kinds of flavors. They are all different balanced according to the brand and process of making. To compare, vine contains about
70 flavors and our nose is maybe able to distinguish between about 100 different flavors.
There is another element which adds more complexity to the universe of soy sauce. In order to make the right choice for your soy sauce, you not only has to know a lot about the sauce and your food, you’ll need as well to consider that women and men have a slightly different taste. As far as we know, we have five different kinds of taste: salty, sweet, sauer, bitter and umami. Even though there are discussions about the fifth taste, for Daichi umami is a definite fact and an importance for soy sauce. However, women and men are just different
in the taste of salt, women needs slightly less than men to feel balanced.
For example, when you add the zero sodium soy sauce to a very fresh and salty oyster, it
will taste less salty and increase the actual taste of the oyster. It covers the most obvious taste
and enhances the other ones.
The new culture of soy sauce.
There is hardly anything Daichi doesn’t eat with soy sauce together. In his brewery, he created a sweet soy sauce mixed with grapes. He serves it together with plain yogurt as dessert. Although working in soy sauce wasn’t his first choice after his study in Design and Visual Arts, he overtook the company from his grandfather and was able to increase the production. His actual interest, at the moment, is rather in the outside of the bottle then in the inside. It is important to talk about soy sauce and its power and the best way to do so,
is to create a hole experience out of the product. The one and only question for now will going to be: "How to visualize flavor?" To make it obvious what are the differences and the quality of the soy sauce, that the choice will be more easy and the value increase again.
Daichi, why are you so passionate about soy sauce?
Japanese Food is only based on five products : Rice, Miso, Sake, Fish and Soy. I want to reconnect and be part of the culture, because making soy sauce means keeping the soul
Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture
Soy Sauce Sommelier
Hukuman Soy Sauce Company